art, wall art

Display watercolors up close and personal

One thing I learned, early in my time of working with watercolors, was that the finished paintings needed to be protected. This protection has traditionally been provided by glass or plexiglass. I always wished there was some way to view the work more immediately, without the reflective aspect of glass getting in the way.  Also, glass is fragile and heavy. Paintings framed under glass are tricky to send through the mail. So when I discovered a way to mount watercolor paintings onto wood panel, I was quick to give it a try.

Watercolor artist and instructor Angela Fehr describes the process clearly in her video “How to to Mount Watercolor on a Wood Panel: Cheap Alternative.”

I followed Angela’s instructions. In brief, the process involves these steps with drying time in between:

1. Spray the painting with several coats of protective varnish.

2. Prepare the wood panel by lightly sanding the edges and corners to a smooth finish.

3. Protect the wood panel. On the advice of someone at the art store, I also coated the wood panel (I used a .75” deep cradled 6×6 “ wood panel) with matte gel medium on all sides to keep it from distorting due to changes in humidity. (This step is not mentioned in the video.)

3. Glue the painting to the board.

4. When dry, trim excess paper from around the sides of the board.

5. Sand lightly again.

6. Apply layers of archival wax to the painting and (if you choose to retain the natural wood of the panel) the sides of the panel. Some paint the edges of the panel instead. Buff when dry.

7. As a final step, I installed hooks and wire on the back of each piece.

Along with the video, Angela lists the products she uses (wood panel, Krylon Kamar Varnish Spray, Golden Matte Gel Medium, and Dorland’s Wax Medium). I followed her list except for the varnish, using instead Krylon UV Archival Varnish (Satin Finish) Spray (on the advice of my art store experts) instead of the Krylon Kaymar Varnish Spray. Also, I had some Soft Matte Gel Medium on hand (video recommends “Heavy” or “Extra Heavy”) which was partly dried out. I mixed it with a little water and it’s been working fine.

The finished paintings look just like the originals—and with no glass in the way! They are light, compact, would be easy to ship, and are ready for wall or tripod display! Paintings mounted on wider (1.5 inch) cradled panel would stand on their own without a tripod and could also be hung.  

Here are four paintings that I’ve mounted on panel, hanging on the wall beside my pantry door.

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